Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-684899dbb8-bjz6k Total loading time: 0.295 Render date: 2022-05-19T18:45:07.340Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true }

Person-based split ergativity in Nez Perce is syntactic1

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 June 2015

University of California, Santa Cruz
Author’s address: Stevenson Academic Services, 1156 High Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95064,


Nez Perce is one among many ergative languages that consistently use nominative case, rather than ergative, for 1st and 2nd person transitive subjects. Two major lines of analysis have been proposed for the synchronic grammar of this type of ergative split. Morphological analyses approach the phenomenon as a case of syncretism between ergative and nominative in 1st and 2nd person; all transitive subjects are assigned an identical syntax. Syntactic analyses posit a featural or structural distinction between 3rd person subjects and 1st and 2nd person subjects, or the clauses containing them. On the basis of modification and coordination patterns, I argue that person-based split ergativity in Nez Perce requires a syntactic analysis. Comparison of the Nez Perce data with recent findings by Legate (2014) reveals variation among languages showing person-based split ergativity: some languages require a morphological analysis, and some (like Nez Perce) require a syntactic analysis. A treatment of the syntactic type of person-based split ergativity is proposed, making use of person-sensitive phrase structure as introduced by Bianchi (2006) and Merchant (2006).

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2015 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Aissen, J. 1999. Markedness and subject choice in Optimality Theory. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 17, 673711.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Aldridge, E.2004. Ergativity and word order in Austronesian languages. Ph.D. dissertation, Cornell.Google Scholar
Aldridge, E.2007. Case in ergative languages and NP split-ergativity. In Proceedings of the Texas linguistics society IX conference: The morpho-syntax of underrepresented languages, 1–20. CSLI Online Publications.Google Scholar
Alexiadou, A. & Anagnostopoulou, E.. 2006. From hierarchies to features: Person splits and direct–inverse alternations. In Boeckx, C. (ed.), Agreement systems. John Benjamins.Google Scholar
Aoki, H. 1966. Nez Perce vowel harmony and Proto-Sahaptian vowels. Language 42, 759767.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Aoki, H. 1970. Nez Perce grammar. University of California Publications in Linguistics. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
Aoki, H. 1994. Nez Perce dictionary. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
Bhatia, T. K.1993. Punjabi: A cognitive-descriptive grammar. Routledge.Google Scholar
Bhatt, R. 2005. Long distance agreement in Hindi–Urdu. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 23, 757807.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bianchi, V. 2006. On the syntax of personal arguments. Lingua 116, 20232067.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bickel, B. & Witzlack-Makarevich, A.. 2008. Referential scales and case alignment: Reviewing the typological evidence. In Richards, M. & Malchukov, A. L. (eds.), Scales (Linguistische Arbeits Berichte 86), 137. Universität Leipzig.Google Scholar
Carnie, A. 2005. A phase-geometric approach to multiple marking systems. In McGinnis, M. & Richards, N. (eds.), Perspectives on phases, 87102. MITWPL.Google Scholar
Chomsky, N. 1957. Syntactic structures. Mouton.Google Scholar
Chomsky, N. 2005. Three factors in language design. Linguistic Inquiry 36, 122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Colarusso, J. 1992. A grammar of the Kabardian language. University of Calgary Press.Google Scholar
Coon, J. & Preminger, O.. 2012. Toward a unified account of person splits. In Choi, J. (ed.), Proceedings of the 29th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics, 310318. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press.Google Scholar
Corbett, G. G. 1983. Agreement in person, number, and gender. In Gazdar, G., Klein, E. & Pullum, G. K. (eds.), Order, concord and constituency, 175206. Dordrecht: Foris.Google Scholar
Corbett, G. G. 2006. Agreement. Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Crook, H. D.1999. The phonology and morphology of Nez Perce stress. Ph.D. dissertation, University of California at Los Angeles.Google Scholar
Czaykowska-Higgins, E. & Kinkade, M. D.. 1998. Salish languages and linguistics. In Czaykowska-Higgins, E. & Kinkade, M. D. (eds.), Salish languages and linguistics: Theoretical and descriptive perspectives, 168. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
D’Alessandro, R. & Roberts, I.. 2010. Past participle agreement in Abruzzese: Split auxiliary selection and the null-subject parameter. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 28, 4172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dalrymple, M. & Kaplan, R. M.. 2000. Feature indeterminacy and feature resolution. Language 76, 759798.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
de Hoop, H. & Malchukov, A. L.. 2008. Case marking strategies. Linguistic Inquiry 39, 565587.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
de Reuse, W. 1994. Siberian Yupik Eskimo: The language and its contacts with Chukchi. University of Utah Press.Google Scholar
Deal, A. R. 2009a. Events in space. In Friedman, T. & Ito, S. (eds.), Proceedings of SALT 18, 230247. Cornell: CLC Publications.Google Scholar
Deal, A. R. 2009b. The origin and content of expletives: Evidence from ‘selection’. Syntax 12, 285323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Deal, A. R. 2010a. Ergative case and the transitive subject: A view from Nez Perce. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 28, 73120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Deal, A. R.2010b. Topics in the Nez Perce verb. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Massachusetts Amherst.Google Scholar
Deal, A. R. 2013. Possessor raising. Linguistic Inquiry 44, 391432.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Deal, A. R.2014. Cyclicity and connectivity in Nez Perce relative clauses. Ms., University of California, Santa Cruz.Google Scholar
Deal, A. R. 2015a. Ergativity. In Alexiadou, A. & Kiss, T. (eds.), Syntax – theory and analysis. An international handbook, vol. 1, Chapter 20. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.Google Scholar
Deal, A. R.2015b. Plural exponence in the Nez Perce DP: a DM analysis. Ms., University of California, Santa Cruz.Google Scholar
Deal, A. R.To appear. A note on Nez Perce verb agreement, with sample paradigms. In Proceedings from the 50th international conference on Salish and neighboring languages. Vancouver: UBC Working Papers in Linguistics.Google Scholar
Deal, A. R. & Wolf, M.. In press. Outwards-sensitive phonologically-conditioned allomorphy in Nez Perce. In V. Gribanova & S. Shih (eds.), The morphosyntax–phonology connection. Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
DeLancey, S. 1981. An interpretation of split ergativity and related patterns. Language 57, 626657.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
DeLancey, S. & Golla, V.. 1997. The Penutian hypothesis: Retrospect and prospect. International Journal of American Linguistics 63, 171202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Deo, A. & Sharma, D.. 2006. Typological variation in the ergative morphology of Indo–Aryan languages. Linguistic Typology 10, 369418.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dhongde, R. V. & Wali, K.. 2009. Marathi. John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dixon, R. 1979. Ergativity. Language 55, 59138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dixon, R. 1994. Ergativity (Cambridge Studies in Linguistics 69). Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Dixon, R. M. W. 1972. The Dyirbal Language of North Queensland. Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Embick, D. 2010. Localism versus globalism in morphology and phonology. MIT Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Filimonova, E. 2005. The noun phrase hierarchy and relational marking: Problems and counterevidence. Linguistic Typology 9, 77113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Foley, W. A. 1991. The Yimas language of New Guinea. Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
Fortescue, M. 1984. West Greenlandic. Croom Helm.Google Scholar
Gerdts, D. 1988. Object and absolutive in Halkomelem Salish. Garland.Google Scholar
Grano, T.2006. ‘Me and her’ meets ‘he and I’: Case, person, and linear order in English coordinated pronouns. Honors thesis, Stanford University.Google Scholar
Haspelmath, M. 2008. Frequency vs. iconicity in explaining grammatical asymmetries. Cognitive linguistics 19, 133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jelinek, E. 1993. Ergative ‘splits’ and argument type. In Bobaljik, J. D. & Phillips, C. (eds.), Papers on case and agreement I (MIT Working Papers in Linguistics 18), 1542. Cambridge, MA: MITWPL.Google Scholar
Johannessen, J. B. 1998. Coordination. Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Johns, A. 2000. Ergativity: A perspective on recent work. In Cheng, L. L.-S. & Sybesma, R. (eds.), The first Glot International state-of-the-article book, 4773. New York: Mouton de Gruyter.Google Scholar
Kayne, R. S. 1993. Toward a modular theory of auxiliary selection. Studia Linguistica 47, 331.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Keine, S. & Müller, G.. 2008. Differential argument encoding by impoverishment. In Richards, M. & Malchukov, A. L. (eds.), Scales (Linguistische Arbeits Berichte 86), 83136. Universität Leipzig.Google Scholar
Kiparsky, P. 2008. Universals constrain change; change results in typological generalizations. In Good, J. C. (ed.), Linguistic universals and language change, 2453. Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Legate, J. 2005. Phases and cyclic agreement. In McGinnis, M. & Richards, N. (eds.), Perspectives on phases, 147156. Cambridge: MITWPL.Google Scholar
Legate, J. A. 2006. Two types of nominal split. In Davis, C., Deal, A. R. & Zabbal, Y. (eds.), Proceedings of NELS 36, vol. 2, 441453. Amherst: GLSA.Google Scholar
Legate, J. A. 2008. Morphological and abstract case. Linguistic Inquiry 39, 55101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Legate, J. A. 2014. Split ergativity based on nominal type. Lingua 148, 183212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Linn, M. S. & Rosen, S. T.. 2003. The functional projections of subject splits. In Griffin, W. (ed.), The role of agreement in natural language (Texas Linguistic Forum 53), 135146.Google Scholar
Malchukov, A. L. 2008. Animacy and asymmetries in differential case marking. Lingua 118, 203221.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Merchant, J. 2006. Polyvalent case, geometric hierarchies and split ergativity. In Bunting, J. et al. (eds.), Proceedings of the 42nd Annual Meeting of the Chicago Linguistics Society, volume 2, 5776.Google Scholar
Nash, L. 1997. La partition personelle dans les langues ergatives. In Zribi-Hertz, A. (ed.), Les pronoms: Morphologie, syntaxe and typologie, 129149. Saint-Denis: Presses Universitaires de Vincennes.Google Scholar
Newmeyer, F. J. 2002. Optimality and functionality: A critique of functionally-based optimality-theoretic syntax. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 20, 4380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Palosaari, N. E.2011. Topics in Mocho’ phonology and morphology. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Utah.Google Scholar
Paster, M.2006. Phonological conditions on affixation. Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Berkeley.Google Scholar
Poletto, C. 2000. The higher functional field: Evidence from Northern Italian dialects. Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Reed, I., Miyaoka, O., Jacobson, S., Afcan, P. & Krauss, M.. 1977. Yup’ik Eskimo grammar. Alaska Native Language Center, University of Alaska.Google Scholar
Rice, K. 2000. Morpheme order and semantic scope: Word formation in the Athapaskan verb. Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Richards, M. 2008. Defective agree, case alternations, and the prominence of person. In Richards, M. & Malchukov, A. L. (eds.), Scales (Linguistische Arbeits Berichte 86), 137161. Universität Leipzig.Google Scholar
Rude, N.1985. Studies in Nez Perce grammar and discourse. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Oregon.Google Scholar
Rude, N. 1986. Topicality, transitivity, and the direct object in Nez Perce. International Journal of American Linguistics 52, 124153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rude, N. 1992. Word order and topicality in Nez Perce. In Payne, D. (ed.), Pragmatics of word order flexibility, 193208. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sag, I. A., Gazdar, G., Wasow, T. & Weisler, S.. 1985. Coordination and how to distinguish categories. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 3, 117172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sapir, E. 1929. Central and North American languages. Encyclopaedia Britannica, 14th edn. vol. 5, 138141.Google Scholar
Schulze, W.2001. The Udi language: A grammatical description with sample text. Scholar
Schwarz, L. 1988. Asymmetric feature distribution in pronominal coordinations. In Barlow, M. & Ferguson, C. A. (eds.), Agreement in natural languages: Approaches, theories, and descriptions, 237249. CSLI.Google Scholar
Shlonsky, U. 2000. Subject positions and copular constructions. In Bennis, H., Everaert, M. & Reuland, E. J. (eds.), Interface strategies, 325347. Amsterdam: Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen.Google Scholar
Silverstein, M. 1976. Hierarchy of features and ergativity. In Dixon, R. (ed.), Grammatical categories in Australian languages. Canberra: Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies. [Reprinted in P. Muysken & H. van Riemsdijk (eds.), Features and Projections. Dordrecht: Foris, 1986].Google Scholar
Silverstein, M. 1979. Penutian: An assessment. In Campbell, L. & Mithun, M. (eds.), The languages of Native America: Historical and comparative assessment, 650691. Austin: University of Texas Press.Google Scholar
Valenzuela, P. M. 2000. Ergatividad escindida en Wariapano, Yaminawa y Shipibo–Konibo. In van der Voort, H. & van de Kerke, S. (eds.), Indigenous languages of lowland South America, 111128. Leiden: Research School of Asian, African, and Amerindian Studies.Google Scholar
Vassilieva, M. & Larson, R. K.. 2005. The semantics of the plural pronoun construction. Natural Language Semantics 13, 101124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Watters, D. E. 1973. Clause patterns in Kham. In Hale, A. (ed.), Clause, sentence and discourse patterns in selected languages of Nepal (SIL 1), 39202. Norman.Google Scholar
Watters, D. E. 2002. A grammar of Kham. Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wiltschko, M. 2006. On “ergativity” in Halkomelem Salish (and how to split and derive it). In Johns, A., Massam, D. & Ndayiragije, J. (eds.), Ergativity. Springer.Google Scholar
Woolford, E. 2008. Differential subject marking at argument structure, syntax, and PF. In de Hoop, H. & de Swart, P. (eds.), Differential subject marking, 1740. Springer.Google Scholar
Zhang, N. N. 2010. Coordination in syntax. Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Person-based split ergativity in Nez Perce is syntactic1
Available formats

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Person-based split ergativity in Nez Perce is syntactic1
Available formats

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Person-based split ergativity in Nez Perce is syntactic1
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *